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Emma Louise Osborne

Nana,

It has been more than 65 years since you died. It wasn’t a surprise because I knew about all those strokes you’d been having. At 12, I wasn’t prepared for the unremitting grief. I was inconsolable for months. So, many years later, I wonder why we had that profound connect. You only lived with us until my brother was born when I was almost six, then saw each other only a couple of times a year. My parents would drop me off for a week in the summer at that big, white, two-story house in South Pasadena you shared with Aunt Mimi. We’d spend the days together when Mimi was at work. I remember we played “Fish” and listened to those saccharine radio dramas. My favorite times came when you’d play the piano. I’m inevitably moved to tears even now when I hear “The Blue Danube Waltz,” the one I always asked you to play. We didn’t fight but we didn’t talk much, either. What was it that made me feel safe and accepted?

For many years after you died, I had repetitive, hauntingly vivid dreams about your return. I was standing on the front lawn as you slowly walked down the sidewalk toward me. I’d awaken with a start, my face covered with tears. 

Like most adults, I experienced many other losses through the years. With each one, though, I would be reminded of you and how devastated I had been. I think it transformed my personality toward a distinctly melancholy bent. 

To be honest, I didn’t really know you other than as my Nana. And the more I have learned, questions linger. You were born in England, married late for the times and cranked out nine children before the age of 40. My father was the youngest. When he was 11, you packed up the kids, boarded anocean liner, and made the long trip across the Atlantic, landing on Ellis Island to begin a new life – without your husband. Wow. You raised all those kids alone. Why didn’t you tell me your stories? What did you do when they were grown and gone? Who did you become?

Following the funeral, Mimi laid out your possessions on your bed, and invited family to go upstairs to select whatever they wanted. I tearfully made my way up those dark, foreboding stairs, when my senses were infused with the residual smell of your familiar lavender cologne. My eyes welled up when I saw you had saved all the little handmade gifts I had brought you over the years. Right away I knew I wanted the heavy quilt you had crocheted before I was born, the same one you kept on your bed when I stayed with you. Then, when my eyes landed on the little rectangular card that read, “There’ll Always Be an England,” I began to understand. Part of you never left, perhaps unable or unwilling to adapt to life outside the family unit. I treasure that card today.

Now, my own life is in its wintery decline, I am just a few years short of your age when you died. I wonder how you would view me, not to mention the radical social changes for women. Sad to say, I don’t think you would approve. But I know you’d love me, no matter what. I will never, ever forget the connection, that persistent, mysterious bond that will endure forever.

Pam Munter has authored several books including When Teens Were Keen: Freddie Stewart and The Teen Agers of Monogram, Almost Famous, and As Alone As I Want To Be. She’s a former clinical psychologist, performer and film historian. Her essays, book reviews and short stories have appeared in more than 150 publications. Her play, “Life Without” was nominated by the Desert Theatre League and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Pam has an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts. Fading Fame: Women of a Certain Age in Hollywood was published in 2021.

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Russ

Dear Russ:

Only a week has passed since your death. Seven endless days of hell, punctuated with spells of numbness. Grief slows time, turns weeks into interminable months.

We almost lasted two decades together. December would have marked twenty years since we first met on Match.com. I spotted your photo, interspersed between all the pictures of shallow yuppies. At once, I felt intrigued by your wild hair and sweet expression. You knew how to stand out in a crowd, even online.

Seventeen years, later, your devastating diagnosis came out of the blue like a terrible car wreck. August 28, 2019 will be ingrained in my brain forever, along with May 3, 2021. Stage four colorectal cancer with numerous mets to liver. The doctor said maybe two years with chemo. We desperately wanted those two years, but you only made it through twenty hellish months.

After the two of us fled the Pacific Northwest and moved to Bisbee, AZ in March 2020, we settled into a routine. Twice a month, we drove to Tucson for your chemo infusions. The rest of the time, I cooked elaborate vegan meals, and we took long walks together.

Our favorite trek was along the San Pedro trail, near Sierra Vista. Its partially dry riverbed was such a contrast to Washington’s green, dripping flora. We learned to love the harsh desert environment, with its spiny plants and treacherous insects.

At first, we took three-mile hikes, and I had a hard time matching your speed. Then the walks dwindled to two miles, and finally one. I remember the day when you first told me to slow down because you couldn’t keep up. Eventually, you advised me to walk ahead by myself. You sat on a bench and waited. I disappeared for fifteen or twenty minutes and then returned, feeling anxious and guilty.

The last time we went to San Pedro, you made it about a quarter mile and collapsed onto a bench at one of the trail forks. Already exhausted, you stared into space. A couple of weeks beforehand, someone had arranged a nearby pile of rocks into the shape of a heart, but since then, another person had scattered the design. It seemed like a bad omen.

I walked to our usual turnaround point beneath a highway overpass. The water flowed freely there. Half a dozen eggplants were arranged at the river’s edge, along with an upended vase of roses and a plate of half-eaten food. 

Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out the symbolism. I felt oddly frightened and knew I had to rejoin you on the bench. “That was much faster than I expected,” you said.

Once your health declined, you went downhill fast. Walking became impossible. You started to fall inside the house, and hospice nurses brought a hospital bed into our living room. Next, the oxygen machine, catheter, and disposable diapers. You wanted to die at home, and I stayed with you until the end, playing John Coltrane and John Prine on YouTube until you took your last breaths.

Today I finally went back to the San Pedro trail. I passed the bench where you rested, then walked to the overpass. I felt relieved to discover that the eggplants and roses and food plate were gone. I wondered if someone had retrieved them, or if they had washed away in the current.

I guess we all wash away in the current. I sat on your bench for a while before returning to the car and tried to imagine what you thought when you perched there, unable to go any further. I miss you so much. I don’t know how to continue. Somehow, I’ll put one foot in front of the other like you always did. The ultimate destination is always the same. You just got there before I did. 

I wish I were religious and as certain about life after death as everyone else seems to be. Perhaps we’ll always be together, walking and laughing. I hope that’s not too much to ask, but I’m not sure if anyone can hear my request.

Rest well, my sweetheart.

                                                        Love, 

                                                            Leah

Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Bisbee, Arizona.  Her most recent books, “Misguided Behavior, Tales of Poor Life Choices” (Czykmate Press), “Death and Heartbreak” (Weasel Press), and “Cocktails at Denny’s” (Alien Buddha) were released in 2019. Leah’s work appears in Midway Journal, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and elsewhere. Visit her website at www.leahmueller.org.

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Grandpa

Dear Grandpa,

I really miss you. I miss going to Mets’ games and going to get McDonalds together. 

I got my Arrow of Light last month for Cub Scouts. It was very exhilarating, happy, and sad when I bridged over to Boy Scouts. This was happy because it felt like a big accomplishment and sad because I had moved on. On every arrow, you get stripes of different color tape depending on the electives you did. The pack master almost ran out of room on my arrow because I had the most electives. The arrow hangs above my bed, and if I become famous, it will one day be in a museum.  

Last year, you texted me,” I will be there in spirit,” when you could not come to a taekwondo tournament. It really helped me this year. I know you are still with me in spirit. I am number one in the world in my age group with the weapons form! I have competed in every virtual tournament this season. I have decided that the oh-sung-do (the one handed sword) is the best weapon for me. I beat my arch nemesis T.J. Knox in traditional forms. He is my nemesis because he won first place in almost every tournament. Also in taekwondo, Mama got her black belt and mommy began doing classes again. I have now been a black belt for almost two years. In the autumn, I will test for second degree.  

Mama is actually interested in Marvel movies. She watched every movie and show with me. WandaVision was great, but Mama cried at the end because Vision’s and Wanda’s children died/disappeared. I would have preferred watching it with you because it would have been more fun. There is another Thor movie, a Black Widow movie, and another Spider Man movie coming out. There will also be another Iron Man movie. This Friday, The Falcon and the Winter solider is coming out on Disney Plus.

We have moved to a small town called Middlesex. I have my own room. I am going to get my own desk. I am able to set up the telescope you bought me to look at the night sky.  I bought a beanbag chair and a nest chair with my own money. They are really comfy. We are having company on Sunday. In the summer, we might be able to have barbecues. My moms allow me to bike around the town by myself. Since I have $78, I can go to Ritas, Seven Eleven, D&D, and Wendys on my own. I am now walking distance from my school. This means, next year, I can ride my bike or my skate board, or I could walk. 

My moms got me a bow and arrows for Christmas. Don’t worry, I have not shot my eye out. Every Friday, Mama and I go to Taco Bell to eat then we go to the archery range to shoot. 

Last summer, we went to all of the Great Lakes. My favorite was Lake Superior. Mommy got obsessed with the rocks there due to the smooth round edges and the bright colors.  

This year, Mama is homeschooling me. I have read The Hobbit, Born a CrimeA Christmas Carol, and Treasure Island. The book we are now reading is Hunger Games. It was written by a woman, so according to you, it might be too descriptive. I have also written a short story called “The Wooden Horse.” I got the idea from one of Uncle Gary’s wooden horses. I have just finished a second short story called “A Gush of Wind and a Howl.” It is about a golden retriever named Apollo. He is based on Fireball. Emma and Lily, Uncle Gary’s dogs, are in it. 

LOVE,

G3

G3 is being homeschooled this year due to the pandemic. He enjoys writing, especially fiction, but sometimes nonfiction can be fun too.

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My Papa, Myself

“I never thought I’d live this long,” my grandfather told me as we sat in his little Brooklyn backyard with the purple irises and old pear tree. My Papa was approaching 90 years and he just couldn’t believe it. My grandmother had died and so had all his friends. How could we know that he would soon develop dementia, as my grandmother did, yet still live another few years? 

We loved spending time together, often walking to the nearby park. We also would ride our bikes, play handball, find pennies and other treasures, tell stories, make jokes, and be silly. He often reminded us to stand up straight: heels together, shoulders back. 

He loved to walk and he also loved to take a break from walking, so we would sit on a bench, wherever we could find one. And we would sit, talk, then not talk, then kibitz about people going by and other goings-on, and all of it was so easy and comfortable. Just being together was enough. 

Being a social person, Papa would often speak to strangers. Hearing some guy who wanted to do something — almost regardless of whether Papa thought it was a good idea or not — he would typically respond: “You’re your own boss!” As long as people weren’t bothering anyone else, it was fine with him. In fact, he thought people’s differences “make life interesting.”

When we weren’t together, we were pen pals, writing postcards and letters to each other frequently. 

Marching to his own drummer and not one for small talk, Papa always got right to the point, whatever that happened to be for him at the moment. Reminiscing about old memories — whether jobs or girlfriends — Papa let me know that most were “gathering dust,” while a few were “still running marathons in my mind.” 

Largely self-educated — he earned his high school equivalency degree — he realized that “Time & tide waits for no man — the clock does not stop ticking for young and old dudes,” adding that “my advice is simple, but may be hard to follow — just don’t worry.” Of course, “Fault finders will find faults,” he wrote, advising me that “You’ll meet some people that are nice — also some crushers,” his term for annoying people. “That’s life. You gotta cope Dan.” Abi gezint, he would often say in Yiddish, as long as you’re healthy. 

Recommending his “replacement therapy,” he suggested finding the good, because “The human mind is not capable of thinking of two activities at the same time,” so when we enjoy the good, we don’t worry about anything else. Especially for his family, but also for everyone else, Papa believed that “Whatever happens, it should only be good.” 

But it wouldn’t always be good, sometimes due to bad luck, other people, and ourselves. After criticizing someone else for breaking their promise to him, he turned the criticism on himself, philosophizing that “We are all victims & villains of broken promises.”

Papa would often remind me that nothing is forever, though we subsequently agreed that love is forever. And as Papa signed off on one of his letters — differently and often humorously most times — “love unlimited.” And with his love, he always had faith in me, and was “semper fidelis,” a great gift that keeps on giving. 

Papa died twenty years ago — on June 30, 2001, exactly eleven years after my grandmother — but they are far from gone. As long as we remember someone, they are still with us. Socially, biologically, emotionally, cognitively, and otherwise, my grandparents are inextricably part of me and always will be. Love is forever!

Dan Brook grew up the proud grandson of Samuel Weiss in Brooklyn, New York and now teaches sociology at San Jose State University in California. 

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Missing You

It’s been twenty years, it’ll be twenty one in October this year, that you’ve been gone. It seems shocking to me that it’s already been that long. I still have the last letter that you sent me, and the last Christmas gift you gave me. My friend told me that the cover is creepy, but I find beautiful; then again I have always been the one to find beauty in places that few dare to look.

I understand that your demons were stronger than whatever tethered you here, but I wish you could’ve stayed. If you held on a little longer, you may have been able to sell some of your artwork online as I know painting full-time was your dream.

You always encouraged me to follow my dreams, and I am doing just that. Although, my job sometimes makes that difficult because it’s a thankless thing that I have to do to pay the bills. If I could write all day long, I’d be happier. But for now, I have to do what I have to in order to make ends meet.

I know you’d understand that.

I never knew how badly you were suffering, and sometimes I feel guilty. I think maybe if I wrote you just one more letter or maybe called you on the phone or something that maybe you wouldn’t have felt so alone in this world. Then maybe you would’ve known that you were loved.

I remember your funeral. It was a rainy day where I was scolded by one of my cousins for crying too much because we didn’t really know you. It boiled my blood because I actually made the effort to talk to you, sometimes, even if it wasn’t often enough. He may not have written you letters, but I did. 

Besides everyone is allowed to grieve as they need to.

Your death did teach me some things though: those that we love sometimes are suffering battles we’ll never know about, I didn’t really want to die or the permanence that came with death – I just wanted the pain and suffering inside of me to stop because I could not stop myself from being bullied and excluded from things just because I wished people were nicer, and that better days come. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, and even years. But better days do come. 

I hope that wherever you are now, that you are free. That you feel better. That you were able to find the peace that you couldn’t find on this Earth.

I miss you, and I love you. I thought maybe one day you could teach me to paint, but perhaps the universe needed you to paint new galaxies and sunsets into view.  

Life is hard, but it harder still, when you know there are people that should be sitting at your table but cannot. 

At least, you didn’t have to deal with the craziness that is this pandemic. Or the aftermath a year later where people think simply because they’re bored, it’s over.

The sun is pouring through my window, and I am happy in this moment. It really is the little things. I wish you could’ve experienced more little things that were able to make you smile. I wish that your trauma and your pain didn’t wound you to the point where living wasn’t an option. I know nothing I can say or do will bring you back, and I know it’s not my fault that you’re gone; but I can’t stop blaming myself sometimes. I really miss you. I wish you could’ve stayed. 

Linda M. Crate’s poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has seven published chapbooks A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press – June 2013), Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon – January 2014), If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications, August 2016), My Wings Were Made to Fly (Flutter Press, September 2017),  splintered with terror (Scars Publications, January 2018), More Than Bone Music (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, March 2019), and the samurai (Yellow Arrowing Publishing, October 2020), and two micro-chapbooks Heaven Instead (Origami Poems Project, May 2018) and moon mother (Origami Poems Project, March 2020). She is also the author of the novel Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018). She also has three full-length poetry collections, the latest being Mythology of My Bones (Cyberwit, August 2020).

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Geraldine C.

Geraldine,

If we could sit and talk right now, I really don’t know where I would start. So much has happened in the nine months since you’ve been gone. You did not die from the Coronavirus, but you did die during the Coronavirus. Although you were not robbed of your ability to breath, as so many Covid patients are, you were robbed of your ability to walk, talk, and care for yourself by that malicious brain tumor. And stolen from your family and friends was the opportunity for us to be with you in the end. To say goodbye. To hold your hand or stroke your hair and express to you how much you meant to each and every one of us. We were not allowed to be in your home for fear of spreading the virus to Mario, Annamaria, or any of your caregivers… or worse, to you. In fact, no one but your immediate family could be at your funeral. Although it was “live streamed” to the rest of us, it just was not the same. To be close to you and your loved ones was unfairly taken away from us by the pandemic.

Do you know how special you were to me, Geraldine? You were not just a co-worker or a partner in gardening, but you were family. I will never forget, when my mother died, you came straight home from your vacation and drove to the evening funeral viewing. Then, after Sarah was born, you bought her dresses and outfits for Christmas, Easter, and her birthday every year because you felt that it was something my mother would have done, had she been alive. You recognized that and, without question, fulfilled that role. I was honored to have you do that. You were Sarah’s surrogate “Nonna.”  I have kept every one of those dresses, by the way, not just to remind me of Sarah as a little girl, but they remind me of you and bring a smile to my face. 

You made work more fun and interesting. Although your office – “The Little House on the Prairie” – is gone, having been torn down only to be replaced by a parking lot and athletic field, I look at the area and I see, in my mind’s eye, your building. I knock on the green door and I hear you from inside say, “Come in if you’re good looking!” I would, of course, not enter right away. I also see us planting flowers around the area to make our offices more beautiful and inviting. I remember playing croquet with the students and meeting your sister Carmella, not once, not twice, but a dozen times or more. I recall catching you with curlers in your hair before a meeting, and you making your way up to my office just to sit and have a little something to drink. I remember lunches in the cafeteria, going with you to the art room, and parking illegally on campus. 

You were the first one outside of my immediate office to welcome me to the campus my first few days of work, and the first to befriend me. I don’t know why I kept thinking your name was “Gertrude,” but, thankfully, the Geraldine R. Dodge poster was on our wall to remind me of your real name!  

We shared fun times meeting the “extras” in the filming on campus of “A Beautiful Mind,” as you could approach anyone and have a conversation as if you were old friends! You encouraged me to enter my photos in a contest on campus and I actually won. You solicited donations to our campus garden and even had the Director of Security helping to weed. 

You were an amazing woman, Geraldine, and you fought like hell to beat the cancer. Unfortunately, it seems as if cancer usually wins, no matter how hard the fight or how strong the fighter. Thank God I was able to visit with you around the holidays in the rehab and wheel you in your wheelchair to “go exploring.” We had fun afterward trying to get the nurse to remember your dessert! Once she brought it, you insisted on sharing it with me. Thinking of all of this brings a smile through my tears. I loved you, Geraldine, and I was blessed to have had you in my life. 

I just wanted you to know that. I guess that is how I would start.

Louise 

Louise Stahl is a freelance proofreader, copyeditor, and a contributing editor to The Literary Review. She and Geraldine worked together, but in separate offices, at Fairleigh Dickinson University for over 25 years. 

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Dad

Dear Dad,

I didn’t want to teach today. I’m tired of teaching. No, that’s not true. I enjoy teaching G3, but I’m tired of constantly being the one in charge. All day, every day, I toggle between being G3’s mom and being his teacher. I’m constantly telling him what to do, what not to do, and getting frustrated when he doesn’t listen or when he complains. But can you blame him? I’m the only one issuing orders and giving commands. Is it really surprising that he doesn’t listen to me? He has never been a good listener. He’s never excelled at following directions. However, in the last couple of months it’s gotten worse. There are moments when it seems like he completely zones out when I speak, as if some internal device shuts down his hearing every time I talk. It’s not easy being two authority figures rolled into one. Last year, he could go to school and complain about me — his mom — to his friends, like every other kid. And then he could come home and whine about his teacher to me. Now, it’s just us. And the only one he can complain to about me, is me. Yes, when we’re home he has his other mother, but she’s been busier this year than ever before having to teach her students virtually and in-person. Even though we share the same living space, work takes up all her time, so even there, it’s mostly me and G3. 

As much as I didn’t want to teach, G3 didn’t want to read or write or look at another math problem. He needed a break. And today was warm and sunny. The perfect sort of day to be outside. So I canceled school. I just didn’t want to make any decisions. I wanted to abdicate all responsibility and have fun. I wanted a few hours where I didn’t have to be a mom or a teacher. What G3 and I needed was time to forget the rules, to set aside work, and simply enjoy each other’s company. I know how you feel about school, and how you never approved of missing a day for anything — unless it meant G3 could spend more time with you — but it’s only February and G3 has already finished the fifth grade history textbook. He only has a chapter left in math and as for writing, he’s written far more than he probably would have in real school, so I promise you, he didn’t miss anything important. 

We ate breakfast on the beach in Mattituck. I had an egg sandwich and G3 had a chocolate chip muffin. When we finished eating, we drove out to Greenport. We took a short hike in Arshamomaque Preserve. Have you ever been there? I don’t remember ever being there but my memory is far from flawless. There were still some patches of snow on the ground, but where it wasn’t snowy it was muddy. Since it’s still winter everything looked dead. The branches were all bare. There were no leaves, no flowers, no splashes of color anywhere.

After hiking, we walked around Greenport. The carousel was closed, though I’m not sure if it was closed because of the pandemic or because it was a weekday in the middle of winter. The ice cream shops were also closed. But the toy store was opened so G3 was able to pick out a couple of the rubber ducks  — a leprechaun duck and a nutcracker duck —which he loves so much. While we were out, he suggested we look to see if there were any geocaches in the area. There were, so we picked up a couple. It was the first time either of us thought to go caching since the pandemic shutdown the entire world.

On the way home, late in the afternoon, I decided to detour to Nassau Point to pick up one final cache. Did you ever take G3 to Nassau Point? You took him everywhere, all over the North Fork, but I have no memory of you taking him there. I asked G3 if he had every been there with you but he just shrugged, “Grandpa took me to lots of places.” It’s really bothering me that I don’t remember. It bothers me even more that I can’t simply call you up and ask. It’s like there’s this missing piece to an important puzzle and if I don’t find it the puzzle will always look askew. When I look at it, I’ll only see the missing piece, even though that piece is so incredibly tiny compared to the entire canvas. 

We picked up banana splits at Magic Fountain and then cuddled on your chair to watch Jumanji. I had never seen it before, even though you and G3 saw it together multiple times. The day must have exhausted him because he feel asleep earlier than usual. He had been read a Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but when I went in to check on him the book was open on his chest. I marked his page, kissed him good night, and shut out the light. Sometimes I wonder if he dreams about you, but when I ask, he’s always evasive. 

Elizabeth Jaeger is a writer. Her work has been published in various online and print journals. Her father, Gary, died in April.

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Gary Jaeger

Photo by Elizabeth Jaeger

Dear Dad,

This afternoon, I tested for and earned my black belt in taekwondo. Oh how I wish you could have been here to watch. During my whole life you had been my biggest fan when it came to sports. You were always there in the stands cheering me on. Just knowing you were there, standing in my corner always made me feel important, as if I could succeed at anything. Last year, when I decided to get back into taekwondo, when I realized I could no longer live with the regret of not having finished what I started in Korea, you were excited me for me. At the time, I had no doubt that you’d be there watching me test, no doubt that when it was over you’d be here to celebrate with me. And if you were alive, I’ve no doubt that you would have Zoomed in to see the test. But your absence has made the experience bittersweet. I think I cried more today than I have since you died. When it was over, and Mr. Peterson tied the black belt with my name on it around my waist, I was crying. G3 noticed my tears and asked why I was crying. I told him it was because you weren’t there. My first athletic accomplishment in a post-Dad world.

I was so incredibly nervous this morning. G3 kept telling me to calm down, that I had practiced so much there was no way I could fail. But it wouldn’t have been the first time my anxiety defeated me. A catch-22 I suppose. Being nervous that my nerves were going to cause me to stumble or completely forget my form, or not break the boards. I marvel at how calm G3 is during the testing. (He midtermed today and also passed.) Nothing seems to rattle him. But he’s also used to competing, and in the ring during tournaments, the standards are much higher.

Due to the pandemic, two of the kids testing for black belt had to use the bag during the sparring portion of the test. I was lucky. I got to spar G3. He went easy on me, although he did kick me in the head once. I think he enjoyed that. It’s not every day he gets to beat up his mother and not only get away with it, but also earn points for doing it. You’d have gotten a good laugh at it. More than that, you never would have let me live it down. G3 and I also got to partner up for the bahng-mahng-ee techniques. Doing the disarms is so much easier — and more fun — when you aren’t trying to disarm an imaginary opponent. 

I didn’t do my form as well as I had hoped. I lost my balance a couple of times. And according to my score sheet, my technique needs work. Also, on both my form and the bahng-mahng-ee, I lost points for lack of rhythm. Oh yes, you would have laughed at that too. You always made fun of me for having absolutely no grace. Again, that’s something G3 outshines me in. His performance is much cleaner and sharper than mine will ever be. The forms are like dancing, and you know how poorly I dance. 

As for the boards, I crushed them both on my first try. I knew I had the power, that was never a question. I knew I would break the board with my hand, it was the aim and balance of my kick that I was worried about.

When kids earn their black belts, the instructor asks the parents if they’d like to say a few words. Since I’m not a kid, he asked my spouse if she’d like to speak. However, she thought G3 would like to say something about me instead. He began, “When my mother first started, I wasn’t even an idea.” I laughed. He was correct. The first time I stepped on a taekwondo mat it was 1996, right after I graduated college. My joints were better, my muscles not so easily pulled or injured. Physically, so much was easier back then.

After the testing, we went out for ice cream to celebrate. I thought of you. So often you used to take me out for ice cream after a big athletic victory. We went to a place in Somerville. It’s not nearly as good as Eddie’s Sweet Shoppe, but it is one of the few places open around here in the winter.

When I first re-embarked on this journey, I intended to only go to classes until I earned my black belt. That’s all I wanted to do. Put that one huge regret to bed. But I’m sure you are not at all surprised that I now plan to continue. I enjoy it too much, but more importantly, I enjoy the bonding with G3. I know you understand that. I’m looking forward to G3 helping me learn the first degree form.

I miss you!

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